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Australia shares gain as RBA expands quantitative easing

* ASX 200 has best day in nearly a month

* RBA expands quantitative easing by $76.2 bln

* Tech stocks biggest gainers on benchmark (Updates to close)

Feb 2 (Reuters) - Australian shares rose on Tuesday after the central bank expanded its bond buying programme to further support an economic recovery and reiterated its pledge of a prolonged period of record low interest rates.

The S&P/ASX 200 index ended 1.5% higher at 6,762.6 points to mark its best day since Jan. 7.

Australia’s central bank held its cash rate at a record low of 0.1% as expected and insisted that it will not tighten policy until actual inflation is within its 2%-3% target range, while extending its bond-buying program by another A$100 billion. ($76.23 billion)

“The bond buying certainly helps in terms of the liquidity, and keeping long term rates lower. The RBA has certainly been doing a fair bit to make sure that the economy has enough of a boost,” said James Tao, an analyst at CommSec.

“The market was already having a very strong session to begin with, and it (the announcement) has certainly helped propel the market higher, and make up a fair bit of ground that was lost last week.”

Tech stocks, which had already helped the benchmark post early gains, added 4% in their best session since Jan. 14.

Buy-now-pay-later giant Afterpay jumped 7.9%, while artificial intelligence firm Appen added 4.5%.

Miners gained 1.9% in their best session in over three weeks. Global miner Rio Tinto ended 3.4% higher, while rival BHP gained 2.2%.

Meanwhile, the Australian dollar pared gains after the central bank expanded its bond buying stimulus and hardened commitment to hold interest rates for three more years.

The heavyweight financial index rose 1.7% with all of the so-called “Big Four” banks closing in the black.

New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index slipped 0.4% to 13,044.5 points, with consumer non-cyclicals and healthcare sectors weighing the most.

A2 Milk shed 3.3% and was the biggest loser on the bourse. ($1 = 1.3118 Australian dollars) (Reporting by Harish Sridharan in Bengaluru; Editing by Shounak Dasgupta)

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